The Seattle Freeze.
According to Wikipedia, the Seattle Freeze “refers to a belief that it is difficult to make new friends (especially for immigrants from other cities) in the city of Seattle. Newcomers to the area have described Seattleites as being standoffish, cold, distant, and not trusting. One author described the aversion to strangers as: ‘people are very polite but not particularly friendly.’” Have you found this to be true? (see survey below)*
For a city as beautiful as ours with a history of embracing the independent spirit and diversity, how is that we have developed such a rude reputation? Yikes. During my 20-year history in the Emerald City I’ve been a part of a multitude of discussions about how difficult it is to meet people, make friends and form lasting connections here in Seattle. Why is that? Is it the weather? Is it our Nordic heritage? Is it because we work so much?
Today, my life is blessed with a great circle of wonderful people, most of whom I’ve met while living in Seattle. But, I have to admit it took some time. Certainly, I’ve had my share of times when I found myself feeling a bit disconnected and struggling to find new friendships. Post-college, postpartum and moving to a new neighborhood all threw me into completely new surroundings, suddenly looking around to see that my social circle had become almost extinct and I had to start from scratch. So let me ask you: Do you think the Seattle Freeze is real? Do you think other cities are just as slow to warm up? Do you think we simply live in a generally disconnected society? So often if we feel something is real it might as well be real, right?
A quick internet search uncovered quite a bit of local journalistic debate and blogger diatribes as to whether the Seattle Freeze is real, over-hyped or just plain myth. But with the exception of the MOHAI monthly Anti-Freeze (see: http://mohai.org), outside of local faith communities and niche affinity groups, I’m not finding a lot of solution-oriented discussion.
So here’s the real question. If the Seattle Freeze is real or even if it just feels real, what can we do about it to change it? Most people value deep, lasting friendship over superficial cocktail-hour drivel. Right? What can we do to reverse the belief and experience that Seatteites are aloof and clique-ish?
Here’s what I can do: I’m declaring war on the Seattle Freeze. I’d love to build a community whose purpose is to share ideas, stories, tips and gathering opportunities to form a new reputation in Seattle, one of friendliness and connection versus a cold shoulder.
The Challenge: Here’s my first step in that direction. I’m going to challenge myself to do a better job of getting to know my neighbors. Radical, I know. But even for an extrovert like myself, for years I had friends at work and friends at church, but I didn’t know my next door neighbors. In fact, if I’m honest, it took me about 10 years to really get to know about a dozen people in my neighborhood. And I want to know my neighbors. Well-connected neighbors make safe neighborhoods. Don’t we all want our kids to grow up in a neighborhood like we did, where people really know each other and spend time together? Where new people who move into the neighborhood are quickly welcomed into the fold?
So, here’s my goal: for the next 12 months I’m going to invite at least one neighbor – that I either don’t know at all or don’t know very well – over for dinner (or other meal) each month. Twelve months, 12 new neighbors. (To note, one ‘household’ counts as one ‘neighbor’.) Along the way I’ll share my journey complete with challenges, insecurities, successes and missteps and, hopefully, share some fun and humor.
In the coming months let’s explore other opportunities for affinity groups, but right now I’m starting with dinner and starting with my neighbors. Twelve may not seem like a large goal for a year; but considering it took me nearly 10 years to meet the first 12…
The Invitation: Is there anyone else out there who finds themselves tired of the Seattle Freeze and would like to join me in this challenge? Are there any other Greater Seattleites who feel it’s time to expand their friendship circle? Do you think there might be people who’ve moved into your neighborhood in the last few years who are still thinking “what the phat?” In my opinion, there’s always room for one more friend. And if more of us do some inviting, we might just chip away at Seattle’s chilly reputation.
Starting May 1: 12 months, 12 neighbors. Who’d like to join me?
*Just for fun: please take this 30-second survey to start our discussion about Thawing the Seattle Freeze: Click Here
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